Saint Paul told the people of Corinth that, “when I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” So must we all. Well, most of us. Some adults never give up childish things. We call them professional athletes.
As someone once said (the Internet is divided on the source), “You’re only young once, but you can be immature forever.” The proof of that axiom is in sports stars and their fans. I am a fan of a few sports, but only one that I regularly watch in person: baseball.
I love baseball. The cadence of the game is perfect for me. The constant movement of many sports bores me. Baseball is like a good book. It’s there to be savored, not rushed through. It has chapters (called innings) like a book, too. That’s probably why so many literary types are enamored of the game: King, Updike, Kinsella, Lardner, Grisham, Halberstam, Delillo. The list of great baseball books and movies is lengthy.
Of late, I have lost all interest in Major League Baseball, however. It’s a travesty. Until the league implements a salary cap, it will be a bad joke at the expense of the small market teams. I prefer competitive sport. My baseball fix now comes courtesy of the Lowell Spinners, a low minor league affiliate of the Red Sox.
The minors start with the Dominican League and the Rookie League in Fort Myers, FL then move up through Short Season Single-A in Lowell MA, Low-A in Greenville SC, High-A in Salem VA, AA in Portland ME, then AAA in Pawtucket RI. That’s a long road to Fenway and very few survive the trip. That’s another reason to love baseball. It’s hard. You will almost never see a kid come right out of college (or, heaven help us all, high school) who can play in the Big Show from day one. It just doesn’t happen; the game is too hard. I love it.
But this is a sad year. One of my childish things – I prefer to say child-like things – was put away just this past week. I’ve been a season ticket holder with the Lowell Spinners for 17 years, since they were established. This year I turned in my tickets. With kids grown and mobility challenged, the expense could no longer be justified. Oh, I’ll still be at the games, just not in the seats that have contoured themselves to my bottom over all these years.
When I started considering the process of giving up this remnant of my past, there were plenty of misgivings. The ball park was the scene of a lot of great memories, and no shortage of great baseball. Rather than drone on and on about those recollections, here are a few highlights – some in words, some in images:
- Seeing legends in person, like Jim Rice, Luis Tiant, and Rich “el Guapo” Garces.
- Catching countless T-shirts and other thrown memorabilia.
- Watching kids who really want to play the game, as opposed to the spoiled brats (a.k.a. major leaguers) who act as if it’s an entitlement.
- Taking batting practice on the field to fulfill one of my “chair list” items.
- Seeing (and sometimes meeting) future greats like Youk, Ellsbury, Papelbon, Buchholz, David Eckstein, Hanley Ramirez, Freddy Sanchez, and so many more. Former Spinners are all over the Majors these days.
- Hanging with my “neighbors” in nearby seats.
- Mostly, I cherish games shared with my family, including my youngest daughter whose cheer was so loud and shrill that I think she was inducted into the Screaming Fan Hall of Fame. When she was there, our seats were in the “Ear Bleed Section”.
And so, as the Desiderata exhorts, I “gracefully surrender the things of youth”. Although I lose my primo seats next to the Spinners dugout, I can still look forward to spring when I will sit among the vast unwashed masses in the cheap seats.
But it’s still great baseball and baseball is still great. Play ball!